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Dear Lungs,

You’ve been trying to kill me or make me look like a dweeb since first grade. That’s when I found out about asthma. You made me wheeze so hard that I puked in a hospital parking lot. Some nurse insisted that I use a wheelchair instead of walking to move from room to room. He swaddled me in a blanket, which got caught in the wheels.

I was recovering from an untreated asthma attack.

“Follow me,” said the nurse, who never offered to push me as I fought the shitty hospital wheelchair meant for adults. We finally arrived at the secondary waiting room, but not before the mustard yellow blanket slowly cinched around my shoulders, tightening my air passage even further. As I wheezed like a punctured accordion, an older girl (probably in college, so a full-blown woman to my first grade eyes) commented, “So you’re that weird noise we’ve been hearing.” I wasn’t disappointed, just mad.

My first inhaler was a baby blue monstrosity (googling ‘bag inhaler’ confirms that it looks as stupid as I remember) that the school nurse had to keep in her office. Any time I had gym or recess and thought I might be running a little too hard, I had to excuse myself to go suck on a nozzle so that I might not collapse from the effects of dodgeball or crisp fall air.

The inhalers got smaller. My parents asked the school nurse if it made more sense for me to keep it on me, since it didn’t make sense to have someone fetch it from her as I struggled to breathe. Students were not supposed to have drugs on their person. We stopped telling my school that I needed an inhaler.

As a kid, if I played with my friends in the neighborhood and game of tag spontaneously broke out, I had to go inside first to take a hit of albuterol. Or just start playing until I was hacking like a I smoked a pack a day. But I wasn’t disappointed, just mad.

A couple times when I was older, I had full blown asthma attacks that my inhaler couldn’t handle.

So I sat in the emergency room, puffing on a Space Age hookah from a scifi version of Alice in Wonderland. The vapor tasted like the air at an indoor hotel pool, but stale.

Two weeks ago, I thought I had the flu. I started to feel sick while serving jury duty. I sat in the courtroom noticing, “I kind of feel achy. My throat feels weird. The attorneys keep pulling all of the black jurors. I feel warm.” A week later, I felt no better, so I went back to my doctor. Turns out that I had pneumonia. You, my dainty little lungs, had allowed an infection to compromise you, and fill you with goop.

The doctor prescribed antibiotics plus a steroid inhaler because of my lungs, wimpy on their best of days. When I told the pharmacist that I actually did have insurance, it just wasn’t on file, he was very pleased to announce that I would be saving over $300. But the steroid inhaler was still 50 dollars and did I want to hold off on getting it just yet? I asked if there was a generic version. He said, “It’s a name brand generic, so no.” I wasn’t disappointed, just mad.

Despite your best efforts, Lungs, you have not managed to suffocate me from inside my own body.

I assume that this attack with a disease usually used to take down the elderly is a first step in your accelerated efforts. I’ll continue to use my anger as motivation to force you to do things that cause you to rebel against me, such as distance running and basketball. I look forward to our unending struggle.

Forever yours,

Dennis William

Dennis is an aspiring English teacher and still listens to ska music. He lives in Portland, Oregon, which is fine, just not in the same way that DC is fine.

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